The McDermott Professorships were established in August 2017, funded by an anonymous gift, with the goal of providing early career support and recognition to faculty members who have established extraordinary records of research productivity, teaching excellence and university service, and who show promise of being leaders of the UT Dallas faculty in the future.
Stefan is developing polymeric materials to more efficiently deliver doxorubicin, a potent anticancer drug, in combination with polyphenols, which can help to reduce the cardiotoxicity of the drug.
I developed my mentoring style by using five simple steps: Care for your students; look beyond the surface and do not discard anyone out-of-hand; learn about your students’ concerns; establish a connection and be honest about your expectations; and constantly provide feedback and encouragement.
Dr. Mihaela Stefan is involved in a wide variety of research projects centering on the synthesis and characterization of organic and polymeric materials for multiple purposes, including drug delivery, tissue engineering, novel solar cell technology and organic electronics.
For example, she and her students are developing polymeric materials to more efficiently deliver doxorubicin, a potent anticancer drug, in combination with polyphenols, which can help to reduce the cardiotoxicity of the drug. The polymeric micelles allow delivery of the drugs in a controlled and less toxic manner.
Stefan’s research group also recently designed curved, banana-shaped small molecules from organic semiconducting materials, which could improve the performance of thin film transistors. She has also worked with UT Dallas colleagues in the departments of biological sciences and bioengineering to develop a nanoparticle-based mechanism for delivering medication to an infected root canal.
In 2010, Stefan received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation. Her research also has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Welch Foundation.
Stefan’s exceptional teaching and mentoring efforts at UT Dallas have garnered several awards, including twice earning the Outstanding Teacher Award from the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She also earned the Inclusive Teaching Diversity Award and the President’s Teaching Excellence Award.
“As a professor, I am fortunate to be one of those who can ‘enable the dreams of others.’ My teaching extends to mentoring undergraduate students, and many times I have taken them from the classroom into the lab to expose them to the beauty of research,” she said.
In 2015, Stefan received the Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring. This award acknowledges a faculty mentor who demonstrates superior leadership, support and guidance toward the development of UT Dallas undergraduate students and their research endeavors.
“As a mentor, I try to act as a role model, to provide advice, confidentiality, and friendship. Honesty is the key to establishing a true connection between the mentor and mentees.”
Stefan earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, and a master’s and doctorate in chemistry from Politechnica University in Bucharest, Romania. Before joining the UT Dallas faculty in 2007, she was a visiting assistant professor and research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University.